We have all been on the roads with tractor-trailers, semi trucks, big rigs, and 18-wheelers. Even though they are fewer in numbers than standard passenger vehicles, truck accidents cause more damages and serious injuries. Therefore it is good to know the primary causes of semi-truck accidents.

Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents


As usual, speeding is one of the biggest causes of truck accidents. A truck driver may be more prone to speeding than an average passenger driver. A truck driver makes a living by getting to his destinations on time. The more cargo the driver transports, the more money he makes. The opposite is also true. If the vehicle is late, there are penalties, which in many cases involve money. Truck drivers may have a tendency to press the gas pedal a little more, which can lead to severe consequences to other drivers.

Reckless or Aggressive Driving

As with speeding, a truck driver may be more subject to drive aggressively to make deliveries on time. Drivers need to remember large trucks can be 80 feet long carrying close to 40 tons of cargo. This means stopping distances and turning radiuses are much different in a big rig compare to a standard car. Being aggressive behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler may lead to serious injuries.


Truck drivers are subject to aggressive screening. Still, impaired driving happens. The law in California states it is illegal to operate a vehicle requiring a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with a blood alcohol level of 0.04 percent or above, which is half the standard for a passenger driver. However, any traces of blood alcohol level in a commercial driver’s system may impair his judgment on the roadways.

Driver Fatigue

Over 4,000 people die each year from truck accidents due to driver fatigue. Driver fatigue is a factor in 13% of large truck crashes. Fatigue can be due to all sort of physical and mental reasons. Lack of adequate sleep, long work hours, tough work conditions, and non-driving activities are some of the reasons that cause fatigue. California has new rules in place to help drivers get the rest they need. One rule makes drivers take a 30-minute break every 8 hours and another rule reduces the maximum number of driving hours per week from 82 to 70.

Defective or Damaged Equipment

There are many moving parts on 18-wheelers, which leaves more to break. Two equipment failures that cause crashes are brake issues and tire problems. Based on government data, equipment failure is responsible for 35% of large truck crashes.

Overloaded Cargo

Braking and maneuvering become more difficult when a truck’s load is too heavy. An overloaded truck contributes wear and tear on its equipment bring the brakes and tires to failure quicker than a properly loaded truck. Even distribution of cargo loads is essential for balance. Overloading one side of a truck may cause it overturn and rollover.

Driver Inexperience

In California, large truck drivers need to complete a physician’s medical exam, pass a written exam and a road skills test to receive a commercial drivers license. Even with a proper license, a driver may not have enough experience and confidence to be driving a large truck.

Unfamiliar with Area

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration identified drivers’ unfamiliar with area as a factor in over 3 percent in large truck collisions. When a driver is unfamiliar with an area, the driver’s attention may be diverted from the vehicles on the road to street signs.

Weather and Road Conditions

Road conditions play a big role in the handling and performance of a vehicle. Snowy, icy, or even wet roads may make it tough to drive, especially braking and turning. In addition, weather may limit a driver’s visibility making it important to drive cautiously.

For what it’s worth, many of the same things that cause car accidents cause truck accidents. It is the results that may be dramatically different.